Staying Mentally Healthy at a Distance


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Toliet paper flying off shelves is just one example of the panic sweeping the nation. (Courtsey of Flickr)

When Fordham told us to leave as quickly as possible in the beginning of March, many of us welcomed the thought of an extended spring break with little concern. We sat together on Eddie’s celebrating the warm weather and reveling in the extra time we got to spend carefree with our friends before heading home. As we left campus, we felt assured that we just needed to pack for three weeks and would be back on campus before we knew it, appreciating the extra time off we would have.

Then, on Friday the 13th, fitting the scary superstition of the date, the university decided that we would remain home for the remainder of the semester. Any joy that we had felt quickly faded into sadness about being separated for so long, accompanied by concerns about the adjustment to life back home and the implications of this transition. Many of us immediately texted our friends, distraught about what this would mean for us, especially for seniors, as so many events that we had been looking forward to were now canceled.

Now, after being off-campus for about two weeks, we anxiously watch the number of cases rise every day as more tests become available and listen closely as officials announce the mandatory closing of restaurants and businesses and even instill curfews. As the implications of COVID-19 seem to grow more serious with each passing day, throughout the nation there is an increase in panic. With products in grocery stores flying off the shelves faster than they can be restocked and families figuring out how they will make it through these times, the effects of the spread of COVID-19 go beyond those at the surface level.

Regardless of where we are, we hear officials and medical professionals encouraging us to practice social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19. For many of us, these new policies may mean that every member of our family is now home all day, with our parents likely working remotely and our siblings doing online school. As so many businesses are completely closed or only offering takeout, you can’t even get out to visit your favorite local coffee shop with your hometown friends, leaving many to feel trapped in their houses. With this massive shift comes the challenge of adjusting to our new way of life, and many of us may be struggling with our mental health in such uncertain times. The key thing to remember is that your feelings are valid, no matter what they are. It is completely okay to feel upset about missing a concert while simultaneously worrying about the physical health implications of COVID-19 for yourself and your loved ones.

The intense emotional effects of a time like this make it more important than ever to check in with your mental health and do what you can to help yourself cope through this.

At Fordham, many of us had a set daily routine that included our classes, extracurriculars and spending time with our friends; now it may seem as if the days spent at home are passing by without structure. Many professionals are encouraging forming a daily routine throughout the house to help deal with this new situation. This can include anything that will help you feel more grounded, such as having a set time to wake up and have breakfast with your family or establishing a specific time and place where you will do your homework. Remember that this routine can be completely flexible and is simply meant to help you through this time. It is also important to set aside time to do something purely for yourself, whether that is journaling, doing a puzzle, learning to do something new or anything that you would consider self-care. Even something as simple as coloring can be a key break that will allow you to spend some time checking in with your mental health as you cope with this new reality.

It may also help to try and get outside every day. Even while practicing social distancing, something simple, such as taking a walk through your neighborhood, may help you feel better. If you go on your own, grabbing some headphones and listening to your favorite playlist or podcast may help you relax for a while without worrying about COVID-19. Use this as an extra opportunity to check in with your mental health and acknowledge what you need, whether that be a break from news stories about the virus, a phone call with a friend or just some alone time after being in a full house all day.

No matter how you are coping through this time, remember that we are all experiencing it together (just from a distance). Know that you are always allowed to feel how you feel, and do your best to help yourself through this, whether that means creating a daily self-care routine, reaching out to friends or playing with your beloved pet. Stay healthy and happy, and know that we will get through this.